Human error behind 142 'missing' Ijok ballot papers

Beh Lih Yi
Nov 19, 07

The 143 ballot papers that could not be accounted for during the Ijok by-election are not ‘missing’ after all, as had been indicated in the official results released by the Election Commission (EC) on April 28.

At a two-hour meeting this morning with election watchdog Malaysians for Free and Fair Elections (Mafrel), the EC attributed the apparent discrepancy to human error by one of its officials.
“The EC said the figure was not right, and that there was only one unreturned ballot paper, which was a postal vote,” said Mafrel chief Abdul Malek Hussin when contacted later.
The election results had revealed that 142 ballot papers had not been returned at one of the voting streams in the Pekan Berjuntai Bestari Utara polling district, and one at the Jaya Setia polling district.
Malek said he was told that an election official had mistakenly recorded the 142 ballot papers as unreturned ballots, when this figure “should have referred to the number of ballot papers not issued”.
While it is normal for a couple of ballot papers not returned at certain polling areas, questions were however raised over 142 ‘missing’ ballot papers from one area alone. [See chart]
Malek said that Mafrel – which in August had urged the EC to probe the incident and make its findings public – is now convinced with the explanation provided.
“If it had been a case of missing ballots, surely the polling agents (of candidates) would have detected it,” Malek argued.
EC chief Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman (photo) and secretary Kamaruzaman Mohd Noor could not be reached for verification they were in a meeting, ahead of leaving today for a working trip abroad.
Both were among the 12 top officials who had met with the six-member Mafrel delegation at the EC headquarters in Putrajaya to discuss the latter’s observation report on the bitterly-fought Ijok by-election.
Barisan Nasional’s K Parthiban beat PKR then treasurer Khalid Ibrahim with a majority exceeding 3,000 votes.
Longer campaign period
In a related development, the EC has agreed to set a longer campaign period for the coming general election, widely speculated to be called by early next year.
“The EC agreed because (fixing the campaign period) is within the its power,” Malek said, adding that the EC did not specify the duration.
“The last general election had only eight days of campaigning. Mafrel has asked for 14 days this time and the EC promised to look into this.”
Opposition political parties had criticised the 2004 campaign period as the shortest in electoral history, saying this had jeopardised their chance to lobby voters face-to-face in remote areas, especially in view of limited access to the media.
Malek said the EC had also informed him that it would not allow international observers to monitor the next general election – only Mafrel would be issued with accreditation for this purpose.
“Nevertheless, according to EC, so far no international or domestic organisations have applied for accreditation, so we can’t say the EC reject this request,” he noted.
Malek also said the EC chief had suggested that Mafrel seeks government funds to carry out election monitoring – an idea which Malek said the body would consider.